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Two lessons


Lesson One: While our four children were still at home and attending public schools, a small wooden plaque hung in our kitchen. It was titled “Children Learn What They Live,” and contains these sentences:

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.

If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.

If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

If children live with security, they learn to have faith.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Lesson Two: During the 1980s we were given an enlightening document titled “A Code For Parents.” It was reportedly the product of a counselor in a Canadian governmental facility that helped troubled youth. That counselor asked his young subjects to draw up a code which parents could follow. He asked that they zero in on the specific areas where they thought their parents had failed.

Here’s the summary of what they wrote:

1. Keep cool. Don’t fly off the handle. Keep the lid on when things go wrong. Kids need to see how much better things turn out when people keep their tempers under control.

2. Don’t get strung out from booze or too many pills. When we see our parents reaching for those crutches, we get the idea that it is perfectly okay to reach for a bottle or a pill when things get heavy. Children are careful observers and great imitators.

3. Bug us a little. Be strict. Show us who’s boss. We need to know we have some strong supports under us. When you cave in, we get scared.

4. Don’t blow your class. Stay on that pedestal. Don’t try to dress, dance, or talk like your kids. You embarrass us, and you look ridiculous.

5. Light a candle. Show us the way. Tell us God is not dead or sleeping or on vacation. We need to believe in something bigger and stronger than ourselves.

6. Scare the hell out of us. If you catch us lying, stealing, or being cruel, get tough. Let us know why what we did was wrong. Impress on us the importance of not repeating such behavior.

7. When we need punishment, dish it out. But let us know you still love us, even though we have let you down. It will make us think twice before we make that same move again.

8. Call our bluff. Make it clear you mean what you say. Don’t compromise. Don’t cave in. And don’t be intimidated by our threats to drop out of school or leave home. Stand up to us, and we’ll respect you. Kids don’t want everything they ask for.

9. Be honest. Tell us the truth no matter what. And be straight-arrow about everything. We can take it. Lukewarm answers make us uneasy. We can smell uncertainty a mile away. The bottom line is that we want you to tell it like it is.

10. Praise us when we deserve it. If you give us a few compliments once in a while, we will be able to accept criticism a lot easier.

“If you pay attention, you learn something every day.”

Ken and Nan Webster have collected inspiration for many years from many sources, and now inspire readers of “A Matter That Matters.” Contact them at or visit

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